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Yes, planning a trip to Disney World on a budget is possible! It’s never going to be the cheapest trip, but there are many ways you can save money on accommodation, transport, and food.
We’ve been to Disney World in Orlando, Florida four times as adults. During the first two visits, we were on a tight budget and stayed in off-site motels and packed sandwiches.
On our third trip, we had more to spend and stayed in Disney World’s cheapest resort hotel and ate in the parks at a mix of fast food and table service restaurants.
They have all been wonderful experiences, and below I compare the costs of staying on-site vs off-site, explain step by step how to plan a Disney vacation on a budget, and give tips on how to save money on every aspect of your stay.
- 2023 Update
- How Much Does a Trip to Disney World Cost?
- Choose the Best Time to Visit Disney World
- How Long to Stay at Disney World
- Accommodation: Staying in a Disney Resort Vs Off-Site
- Booking Cheap Flights
- Car Rental vs Taxis
- Disney Ticket Costs
- Eating at Walt Disney World on a Budget
- Plan Your Days
Here are a few things you should know about visiting Disney World in 2023:
- You must make a reservation to visit a specific park using the Disney Park Pass Reservation System on their website. Check availability before you book your trip.
- Park hopping is only allowed after 2pm (but it’s cheaper not to park hop).
- Free FastPasses have been replaced with paid Genie+ and Lightning Lanes (see below).
- Disney Dining Plans are currently unavailable (but it’s generally cheaper not to use them anyway).
How Much Does a Trip to Disney World Cost?
These are our exact Disney trip costs for two past trips. Costs have risen significantly over the last few years, though, so I also share how much a cheap trip to Disney World is likely to cost in 2023 (unfortunately, not that cheap).
I go into greater detail about the costs of different aspects of a Disney trip later in the post as well as comparing the pros and cons of staying on or off Disney property.
Our Disney Costs Staying Off-Site
The cheapest way to go to Disney World is by staying off-site in a cheap motel. We did this when visiting Disney as a couple in 2011 and 2015.
In 2015 we spent 10 nights in Orlando with six days in the four main Disney parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios) plus three days at the other Disney attractions (water parks and mini-golf).
We tried to be frugal and shopped at supermarkets for breakfast and lunch and ate dinners outside the parks as often as possible.
We spent a total of $2187 for two people which is $109 per person per day.
Here’s how our off-site Disney World shoestring budget for two breaks down per person per day:
- Motel (Maingate Kissimmee) $22
- Park Tickets $44
- Food (Groceries and Eating Out) $20
- Car hire and parking $23
See below for how much a similar trip will cost in 2023.
Our Disney Costs Staying On-Site in a Disney Value Resort
In November 2018, we stayed on-site in Disney’s cheapest resort, All-Star Music, for six nights including five full days in the main parks.
Other than some granola bars we brought with us, we ate all our meals in the Disney parks and also indulged in a couple of alcoholic drinks a day (which we mostly avoided on previous trips).
We spent a total of $2449 for two people which is $204 per person per day, nearly double what we spent staying off-site.
Here’s how our on-site Disney World budget for two breaks down per person per day:
- Hotel and Tickets $139.50
- Food $39
- Alcohol $17
- Gifts and Souvenirs $9
The cost of the hotel and tickets was a package we booked directly from the Disney website for six nights.
Transport is free for resort guests so we didn’t rent a car. Note that Disney’s Magical Express bus from the airport is no longer available, so transport to the parks will be an additional cost (the Mears shuttle is $32 roundtrip for adults or take an Uber/Lyft, which cost us $43 one way in 2022).
We booked our trip seven weeks in advance and had to pay a $200 deposit initially and the balance one month before.
Example Costs for a Disney World on a Budget 2023 Trip
As prices have risen so much recently, here is a sample cost of a one week Disney on a budget trip (with six days in the parks) in early November 2023 staying offsite.
The cost is per person per day travelling as a couple including tax.
- Motel including breakfast (Roadway Inn Kissimmee Maingate West) – $44
- Food – $40 (variable)
- Transport – $5 – $25
Plus 6 day basic park tickets at $686 per person.
This works out at $187 – $207 per person per day, which is almost as much as we spent in 2018 staying onsite, so it really highlights how much costs have increased in recent years.
The lower transport estimate is just enough to get an Uber/Lyft from the airport and back. You’d then have to rely on the free motel shuttle to visit the parks. In reality, you’ll likely want to allocate more for Ubers into the park for the most flexibility.
Cost of Staying On-Site at Disney World in 2023
What if you really want the convenience of staying on-site at a Disney resort—how much will that cost in 2023?
I searched for a week-long trip in November 2023 for two people. The cheapest accommodation was at the All-Star Music, Movies, or Sports Resorts at $1,292 total or $92 per person per night.
If you purchase a package including room and park tickets, it’s $2,667 or $191 per person per night.
Add in basic food and an airport taxi and you’re looking at $236 per person per day.
Choose the Best Time to Visit Disney World
Choosing the best time to visit Disney World is an important decision. The best time to visit Disney on a budget is in the offseason when prices of accommodation, flights and park tickets are lower and the parks are less crowded.
September is the cheapest time to visit, but it’s very hot and humid and hurricanes are a risk.
We visited in September last year and found the heat and daily afternoon rain manageable by taking breaks in the middle of the day.
Late January and early February are also more affordable times to visit, but it can be cold.
If at all possible, avoid school and public holidays. The busiest times are June to mid-August (especially around July 4), Christmas/ New Year, and Thanksgiving.
In recent years October has also become a busy month as the weather is ideal, and there are Halloween celebrations and the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, but I would still visit at this time of year.
Spring Break in April is another busy time, but we have visited twice in April just after Easter—it wasn’t too crowded and the weather was hot.
November is a good time to visit as long as you avoid the week before Thanksgiving. When we visited the weather was mostly hot (we could swim in the resort pool) with two surprisingly cool days (I had to buy a sweater in the park!).
I recommend having a rough idea of the time you can visit Disney and then checking this ranking of the best weeks to visit Disney.
Usually, their top picks for first timers are in November and early December (avoiding Thanksgiving).
You can also check crowd calendar predictions on Undercover Tourist.
Check park reservations are available
In 2023, you need a park reservation as well as a ticket to enter the parks. You must book for specific dates and popular dates can be booked up well in advance.
Before you plan your Disney vacation, check park reservations are available for your dates on the availability calendar on the Disney website.
How Long to Stay at Disney World
Four full days is our minimum for a trip to Disney as it allows us to have a day in each of the main parks.
If you are visiting Disney as part of a longer trip around Florida, you could choose just one or two parks to visit, but they all are very different. It’s impossible for us to pick and doing more than one park in a day would be exhausting.
So even if you are planning a trip to Disney World on a budget, try to allow four full days if you can.
Six or seven full days (7–8 nights) would be even better as it allows you to revisit some of the parks, have a rest day, or visit the two water parks.
On our last trip, we stayed for seven nights, which allowed us five full days in the parks plus a rest day.
On our previous trip where we stayed off-site in a cheap motel, we had 10 nights—six days in the main parks plus two days in the Disney water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach) and one day at Disney Springs (the shopping/restaurant area that doesn’t require a ticket) and Disney’s Winter Summerland mini-golf.
That was a bit much for me, but Simon the Disney fanatic loved it.
You might also want to allow a day or two to visit Universal Studios which is home to the wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Last year we moved to a Universal resort for three nights after Disney for two full days at its two parks.
Recommended Reading: 26 Best Things to Do at Disney World: Must Do Rides for Adults in Each Park
Accommodation: Staying in a Disney Resort Vs Off-Site
Your biggest decision when planning a trip to Disney World on a budget is whether to stay in an on-site Disney resort or cheaper accommodation outside the parks. We’ve done both and had great experiences either way.
Here are our thoughts on the differences.
Staying in a Disney Resort
- Accommodation is more expensive (from $153 plus tax a night).
- Free shuttle buses between resorts and parks so you don’t need to rent a car or pay for parking. You now need to pay for transport from the airport though.
- Resort guests can enter all parks 30 minutes early every day. This is especially useful for popular rides like Avatar at Animal Kingdom and the Star Wars rides at Hollywood Studios.
- In addition, guests at Deluxe Resorts can stay late at Magic Kingdom and Epcot on select days.
- You can book Individual Lightning Lanes (paid line skipping for certain rides) at 7am (rather than park opening).
- You can make restaurant reservations 60 days before check-in plus up to 10 days of your trip (off-site guests don’t get those extra 10 days). This is useful if you want to eat in a popular restaurant like Space 220.
- Packages purchased in park stores can be delivered to your resort.
If you do decide to stay in a Disney resort, the cheapest options are Disney Value Resorts including the three All-Star Resorts.
Pop Century is also a Value resort but is more expensive.
Our room at All-Star Music was similar to the basic motel rooms we usually book off-site with two double beds, an ensuite bathroom, air conditioning, free wifi, TV, and a mini-fridge (but no kettle).
There are two pools on-site (with lots of noisy kids!) and we were a fair walk from the restaurant/reception/bus stops.
It took us 20–40 minutes to get from All-Star Music to the parks including wait time for the bus which was never more than 15 minutes.
The restaurant is canteen style, and you can pick up snacks and baked goods for a quick breakfast.
Although our room and resort were basic, it worked well for us as we didn’t spend much time in our room and only had time to use the pool once.
- Accommodation is cheaper with motels available from $70 plus tax a night.
- You need a car to get to the parks, so you’ll need to pay for a car rental or taxis/Ubers. If you are really on a budget, some motels offer free shuttles to Disney parks but hours will be limited.
- Parking at Disney parks is expensive at $25 a day.
- You’ll be closer to inexpensive restaurants and grocery stores.
- It’s a good option if you want to visit lots of other attractions in Orlando.
We have stayed in cheap motels in Kissimmee just outside the parks twice before including Rodeway Inn Maingate, which is in the ideal location just a 10 to 15-minute drive from the Disney parks.
The motel rooms are simple, but they are comfortable enough with two double beds, ensuite, and WiFi, and there’s a pool.
We paid extra for a deluxe room with a microwave and fridge which is useful for saving money on food.
Prices have gone up since our stay, but other cheap motels in good locations include:
- Rodeway Inn Kissimmee Main Gate West – From $70 a night including taxes.
- Knights Inn Maingate Kissimmee – One of the cheapest options from $47 a night including taxes.
When you are booking a motel make sure you check the final price as the initial quoted price doesn’t always include taxes or service/resort fees.
Which Should You Choose?
If you can afford it, stay at a Disney resort as we think the advantages are worth it.
But if you are on a tight budget, you can save money on food and accommodation by choosing a cheap motel off-site and still have a fantastic time.
Booking Cheap Flights
The cost of flights to Disney World will depend on where you are coming from and the time of year.
The nearest airport to Disney World is Orlando International Airport (MCO) which is served by many budget airlines such as Southwest, JetBlue, and Spirit.
To find the cheapest flights to Orlando search on Kiwi.
Car Rental vs Taxis
If you are staying at a Disney Resort you don’t need a car as you get free transport.
If you want to do Disney on the cheapest budget possible, then it’s likely you’ll stay in an off-site motel. Many have free shuttles but schedules are limited. For more flexibility, allocate a budget for Ubers/Lyft (up to $40 a day) or rent a car.
You used to be able to get cheap car rental deals—we’ve paid just £15 ($19) a day before, but prices have increased. I usually find the best car rental deals on Rental Cars.
You also have to pay $25 a day to park at Disney, so renting a car is not necessarily cheaper than taking taxis.
Disney Ticket Costs
The cost of Disney park tickets depends on how many days you want to spend in the park. It’s cheapest to buy a ticket that allows you to visit one park per day.
A one day ticket to Disney costs from $109 (+ tax) per day depending on the time of year. The cheapest tickets are in late August and September. The highest ticket prices are at Christmas at $159 a day.
Kids under three don’t need a ticket. Kids aged 3–9 only pay a few dollars less than adults.
Prices go down the more days you buy. A four-day ticket costs from $114 per day whereas a seven-day ticket is from $75 a day.
To do a similar trip to our last visit in November 2023, a six-day ticket for two people would be $1289 including tax ($645 per person).
Park Hopper Tickets
You can buy a Park Hopper to visit multiple parks in one day, but this costs more and isn’t usually worth it. If you want to visit the water parks, though, the Park Hopper Plus option could be cost-effective.
A six-day Park Hopper Plus in November 2023 costs $755 incl tax, which is $110 more than a standard ticket, but you get six entries to the water parks and mini-golf. Entrance to water parks is $73, so you’d have to visit at least two to make this worthwhile or use the Park Hopper function.
The paid Genie+ service has now replaced the free FastPass system. It allows you to skip lines by choosing a time to ride certain attractions.
The cost depends on demand and so far has ranged from $15 to $30 plus tax per person per day.
This is an extra cost that could be worthwhile for Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. If you are on a tight budget, you can manage without by arriving early (resort guests have a 30 minute advantage) and/or staying late.
See my best Disney World rides post for more details on how this works.
You can’t buy Genie+ in advance, so just decide on the day if you need it and purchase from the Disney app.
Where to Buy Disney Tickets
It’s easiest to buy your tickets on the Disney website (or with your accommodation if staying on-site) and create a My Disney Experience account.
Eating at Walt Disney World on a Budget
Our Food Costs at Disney
Another important aspect of how to do Disney on a budget is your food expenses. You could spend hundreds of dollars a day if you ate at table service restaurants in the park every day, but there are definitely ways to lower costs.
When we stayed off-site and self-catered or ate in cheap restaurants outside of Disney most of the time, we spent $20 per person per day on food.
When we stayed in a Disney resort and ate all our meals in the parks (except for some granola bars we brought with us), we spent $39 per person per day on food (plus an extra $17 on alcohol). We mostly stuck to quick-service meals plus a few table service restaurants.
On a recent more extravagant trip we spent $80 per person per day eating as above but with more alcohol and a few more table service meals.
Food at Disney World is expensive, so the best way to save money is to bring your own food into the parks (which is allowed).
When we stay off-site, we make sure we have a fridge in our room and shop at supermarkets for breakfast and lunch ingredients and take sandwiches and snacks into the parks.
You should also bring your own water bottle—we love the collapsible Vapur bottle—and fill up at the water fountains that are found everywhere.
If you are staying at a Disney resort and don’t have a car, self-catering is more difficult as there are no supermarkets on-site (resort shops have basic items but they aren’t cheap).
You could use a grocery delivery service like Garden Grocer or take an Uber to a supermarket, but both these options add to the cost. On our last visit we decided it was easier to eat in the parks.
Cheap Restaurants Outside of Disney
It’s cheaper to eat dinner outside of the parks, which works well if you take a break in the afternoon and return to the parks after dinner (but you’ll need a car).
In the past, we used vouchers on Groupon or from our hotel to save on meals and ate at cheap restaurants like Cicis where the all you can eat pizza buffet costs just $9.99.
We also often ate at Earl of Sandwich at Disney Springs where a veggie sandwich costs $7.99. It’s good for your first night as you get the Disney vibe but don’t need a park ticket for the area. You can sometimes find coupons for here especially if you sign up for their newsletter.
Budget Disney Restaurants
Even when we were on a tight budget, we ate a few meals in the Disney parks and allowed the occasional treat as it’s part of the fun.
If you are staying on property, Disney usually offers Dining Plans (currently unavailable)—the cheapest Quick Service Dining Plan includes two quick-service meals and two snacks per person per night.
For an example 7-night booking I did, it cost $734.92 extra for two people which is $105 a day (not including tax). This is more than we spent paying our own way and we were able to have three table service meals as well.
The cheapest meals in the parks are at quick-service places where you order and pick up your food from a counter. Table service restaurants are a lot more expensive and you also need to tip (18–20% is standard).
Here are some examples of what we spent on food (not including tax):
- Lighthouse Sandwich at Columbia Harbour House in Magic Kingdom – $10.69
- Veggie Rice Bowl at Peco Bills in Magic Kingdom – $9.99
- Tofu Lettuce Wraps at Sci-Fi Dine-In at Hollywood Studios (table service) – $16
- Plato Vegetariano at San Angel Inn at Epcot (table service) – $19
- Iced Vanilla Latte – $5.69
- Mickey pretzel with cheese sauce – $6.59
- Pint of ale at UK pub in Epcot – $9.75
- Ice cream cone – $5.49
- Mickey cupcake – $5.19
- Large cinnamon bun at Kusafiri in Animal Kingdom – $7.49
- Apple slices – $2.79
The cheapest option at Disney value resorts is picking up a pizza from the food court—a large cheese pizza cost $15.99 and lasted us two meals.
Plan Your Days
Once you’ve booked your accommodation and park tickets, it’s time to plan your Disney schedule and decide which day you will visit each park. Being organized will help you avoid queues and save time.
- Check the crowd calendar for the time you are visiting to get an idea of which days in which parks are busiest.
- If you are a Deluxe resort guest, choose the days when there are Extended Evening Theme Park Hours if you want to stay late.
- Check the park opening times and note fireworks, show and parade times. You don’t want to visit Magic Kingdom when it closes at 6 pm if you want to see the fireworks.
- Using the above information, decide which day you’ll visit each park.
- Choose your priority rides in each park—see our post on the best things to do at Disney World for ideas.
- Decide if you want to eat at any table service restaurants (probably not if you’re on a tight budget) and make reservations. Some popular restaurants book up as soon as reservations open 60 days in advance.
- Save your schedule in your calendar—we use Google Calendar and can see our entries on the app on our phone even when offline.
- Download the Disney World app. It makes checking wait times on the day easier.
- On the day, consider purchasing Genie+ in the app and making ride selections from 7am.
I hope you’ve found these tips useful for planning a trip to Disney World on a budget.
Whether you stay in a cheap motel off-site or at a value Disney resort, there are plenty of ways to save money and still enjoy a fantastic trip in the most magical place on earth!
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